In 1915 the great film director D. W. Griffith was uncertain about how to use the young actor his studio had just plucked from a successful career in light comedy on Broadway. He was not an outstanding actor, but during the next fifteen years Douglas Fairbanks, with his extraordinary athletic prowess, charm, gaiety and good humour, would become one of the first and best-loved celebrities of the silent era. His heroic and mock-heroic roles (from Robin Hood to Zorro to the Thief of Bagdad); his marriage to the foremost female star 'America's Sweetheart' Mary Pickford; the glitter of life at their palatial home 'Pickfair' high in Beverly Hills; their formation, with Charlie Chaplin, of United Artists; their worldwide, whirlwind tours - all added lustre to the image. The Fairbanks' cavalcade was held bouyant by an ever eager and demanding public. But such adulation was short lived, as with the arrival of the Talkies, Hollywood changed for ever and the fickle public turned to new idols.
Richard Schickel, in his profile of Douglas Fairbanks, examines the actor against the background of his time and considers the implications on our society of the early days of cinema and the *star' system they created. At a time when the proliferation of celebrities, hailed for their well-knownness and not for any skill or triumph, is the plague of the media age, it is clear that Fairbanks and his contemporaries taught us how to worship at this temple of false gods.
June 30, 2018 Subject:
(unfortunately) about the beginning of that phenomenon whereby we look to media-constructed actors ("stars") for political and every other kind of wisdom. Oprah for President, anyone?! Doug Fairbanks paved the way. Personally I prefer Lillian Gish, with a loaded shotgun.